Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Green shoe brigade: Red carpet for renewable koala killers

Mount Morgan, less than 40 kilometres from Rockhampton, was once the largest gold mine in the world. It closed in 1990 but there’s still gold in them thar hills. These days however it comes from Renewable Energy Certificates or RECs, pronounced wrecks, which is what renewable projects are doing to grid security and the environment.

The RECs have been so lucrative that companies from all over the world have poured into Queensland lured not just by the generous REC subsidies but by a lax regulatory environment in which ministers have the discretion to override, for ‘relevant infrastructure activities’, environmental regulations regarding tree clearing, ground cover, and the amount of run-off allowed to flow into the Great Barrier Reef.

When Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was premier in the 1980s, deals were done for the ‘white shoe brigade’ that ignored regulations and delivered rapid rezoning, government loans, and subsidies for controversial developments on the basis of a nod and a wink and sometimes a rumoured brown paper bag of cash.

Under Premier Palaszczuk, Queensland is rolling out the red carpet for the Green Shoe Brigade, not so much carpetbaggers as sun and windbaggers. There’s no need for a brown paper bag. The ‘climate crisis’ justifies the immediate rezoning of pastoral and forested land to allow for industrial-scale renewable utilities.

There is an ‘anything goes’ atmosphere of the Wild West or the Wild North making Queensland’s Renewable Energy Rush every bit as feverish as the gold rush that preceded it.

The scale of what Palaszczuk is planning is Bowen-esque. The Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan launched this month has set a 50-per-cent Renewable Energy Target by 2030 and a 2032 target of up to 2,000 turbines generating 8GW of electricity, 14 million solar panels generating 4GW of electricity, and 5GW of pumped hydro and battery storage.

Yet of 54 wind plants listed, only five are operational, four are under construction, and 42 proposed. Of 129 solar plants, 40 are operational, three are under construction, and eight proposed. And of four pumped hydro storage plants, one is operational, one is committed, and two proposed.

What makes any of this credible is the speed with which projects have gone ahead in the last year and the ruthless indifference to bulldozing the last remnants of old-growth forests. Too rugged for agriculture or mining, these are the last refuges for dozens of Queensland’s most rare and threatened creatures including koalas and greater gliders.

Conservationist Steven Nowakowski calculates that 14,100 hectares of remnant forest will be cleared for 17 renewable projects in North Queensland, and 4,625 kilometres of new haulage roads will have to be bulldozed through forests to service 88 renewable energy projects in the pipeline throughout Queensland.

If a mining or oil and gas company was committing environmental destruction on this scale and it was being rubber-stamped by a Coalition government every green group and parliamentarian in the country would be up in arms. But state-funded conservation groups have said off the record that they don’t dare criticise the state government for fear of losing their funding.

Almost every renewable energy project in Queensland has triggered the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act passed by the federal government in 1999 to protect our unique plants, animals, habitats, and places.

To date, Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek has not covered herself in glory. Her Liberal predecessor Sussan Ley put a stop to a project at Lotus Creek to build 81 wind turbines 230 metres high spread over 48,000 hectares including 632 hectares of koala habitat and 340 hectares of greater glider habitat because it posed a ‘clearly unacceptable’ threat to koalas. The Australian Conservation Foundation welcomed the decision saying, ‘renewable energy projects should not leave biodiversity and threatened species worse off’, but said nothing when Plibersek reinstated the project with increased power generation.

Lotus Creek has a thriving koala community including females with young on their backs in pristine old-growth forests with nesting hollows supporting a flourishing ecosystem of wildlife.

A former Greens candidate, Nowakowski is a voice in the wilderness calling for the state government to turn the area into a national koala park. Horrified by the destruction wreaked by renewable energy’s massive footprint he now supports the Liberals’ nuclear energy policy and the Nationals call for a moratorium on renewables.

‘No one wants to imagine an Australia without the koalas,’ said Plibersek last month, but when it comes to a choice between protecting endangered koalas in native forests and building a wind farm, she opted for the latter.

Bulldozers will arrive any day now at Lotus Creek and if a koala is injured it must, by law, be clubbed to death. Yet unlike Ley, Plibersek hasn’t had to face accusations of being a koala killer.

Glen and Nikki Kelly are the sixth generation to run the family farm near Rockhampton – the essence of sustainable land management. They are horrified that their flourishing property will be ringed with 120 wind turbines 275 metre high which will destroy the habitat of rare and threatened species, create landslides feeding into the Great Barrier Reef, and in summer, firefighters will no longer be assisted by aircraft because the smoke-obscured turbines will make it too dangerous.

Nearby, Cedric and Therese Creed are battling a 36km2 solar plant, bigger than Norfolk Island, to be built on prime agricultural land on the Don river. In extreme weather, toxic leakage from damaged panels and batteries will poison the land and the reef. In a bushfire firefighters can’t even approach it because of toxic fumes and the risk of explosions.

What might save regions from reckless renewable development is the massive uptake of rooftop solar. Queensland’s grid is approaching what energy economist Stephen Wilson calls ‘peak renewables’. When the operator can’t buy any more renewable electricity, companies can’t earn RECs and profits are curtailed. Investment in renewable generation is at its lowest level in five years because of diminishing returns, yet electricity bills are soaring because of renewable subsidies, capital costs and weather-driven shortages.

It was National Threatened Species Day on 7 September but the threat that most concerns Plibersek and Prime Minister Albanese is the vote for the Greens in their adjacent inner-city electorates. So far, it seems their voters care more about closing down coal-fired power plants than whether Big Wind is killing koalas.


Labor's latest job-destroying bill

The title of the new Bill is "Closing Loopholes" but it does no such thing

It’s worth going through the legislation in some detail to establish just how bad it is. But the foundational premise on which it is based is that the only legitimate form of employment is permanent employee, preferably full-time, with a host firm. Everything else – casual, independent contractor, gig worker, labour hire worker – is illegitimate and should be either prohibited or purposefully discouraged.

Of course, one reason for this presumption is that it is only permanent employees who show any inclination to join unions and, even then, not in very high proportions. Take the comparison between permanent employees and casual workers: around 20 per cent of permanent employees are union members (and bear in mind many of them work in the public sector) while only 6 per cent of casuals join up.

From the unions’ perspective, casual employment is bad even though the data confirms that casual workers exhibit the same overall job satisfaction as permanent workers. We know also that only between five and ten per cent of casuals take advantage of the right to convert to permanent employment after 12 months in the job.

Let’s look at the changes to the casual provisions. There is now a ten-point test before employers even think about offering casual employment. After six months, casual employees will be able to apply for permanency and at any time after that. Offering regular shifts to casuals – even something that looks regular – will be a dangerous activity for employers even though many casual workers, including working mothers, prefer regular shifts (and enjoy the 25-per-cent casual loading).

Another section of the Bill deals with labour hire firms which provide workers to large firms with existing enterprise agreements – think here mining operations and aviation, in particular. It has irked the unions for some time that these labour hire workers are not paid exactly the same as the permanent workers with whom they work. Note these labour hire workers are generously remunerated, but not as generously as the enterprise agreement-covered permanent workers.

The reality is that some firms have been locked into extremely inflexible and outdated agreements which are impossible to escape. Their use of labour hire workers has been a means of working around the system.

But as with all these sorts of changes, there are unintended consequences. BHP, for instance, has its own internal labour hire arrangement and it’s unclear whether the legislation will cover this situation – it probably will. Labour hire is also used for specialised workers undertaking bespoke projects and maintenance. Again, it’s unclear whether they will be covered by the new legislation.

But if that doesn’t sound messy enough, get this. Even though the legislation hasn’t even passed the parliament – it has gone to a Senate inquiry which will report in February next year – the labour hire provisions are expected to apply from the day B2 made the second reading speech.

That’s right, the provisions are retrospective but B2 doesn’t have a problem with that, likening it to the anti-avoidance provisions governing some tax changes. The fact that there are no parallels doesn’t bother him. He’s keen to deliver and the sooner the better. In fact, the Bill contains 13 different start dates, which is unbelievably confusing.

Then we get to the gig worker provisions and the introduction of a new classification of worker – employee-like. These employee-like workers will have their wages and some terms of employment set by the Fair Work Commission. Again, it’s not entirely clear who’s in and who’s out. The Ubers of this world are in as are most food delivery services.

Airtasker was told it wasn’t in and was assured by B2 of this until he changed his mind. It shows that sucking up to the likes of B2 is not a sure bet. The platforms linking care workers with those who need the services – Mable is the best example – were thought to be out because the workers are paid much more than the award rates of pay. But it now seems Mable is in.

The reality is that the unions don’t like the gig economy and they are happy for it to shrink. They want the work that gig workers do to be in the form of permanent jobs, which isn’t going to happen to any great extent. The next best thing is for the work to go away. The fact that most gig workers have traditional jobs and use platform-based engagements as a means of making extra money doesn’t really bother union officials. Or B2, for that matter.

Then there is the section of the Bill that boosts the rights of union delegates even if there is only one union member at a workplace. There is a presumption that the one unionist represents the interests of all other workers and must be given special, paid privileges to do so. This includes time off from work to undertake union activities as well as attend union training sessions. This is truly excessive by anyone’s standards.

This Bill is a gift of enormous proportions to lawyers and industrial relations advisers. It’s a major headache for most employers, one way or another, and a major drag on productivity and investment. It will provide a degree of uplift for the rapidly disappearing union movement, although many sensible workers will still resist the entreaties to join up.

At its most fundamental level, the legislation is appalling public policy – complex, ambiguous and ill-directed. It is attacking problems in the labour market that simply don’t exist while creating a new set of real impediments that will have to be removed in due course


Seismic blasting in the hunt for a new Australian gas field said to threaten whales

Activists in Australia are trying to stop oil and gas company Woodside Energy from conducting seismic blasting off the country’s western coast, which they say could deafen and ultimately kill endangered migratory whales.

The court challenge is part of a long-running campaign by Indigenous and environmental activists to frustrate Woodside’s plans for “Scarborough,” a massive fossil fuel project set to pump out carbon emissions for decades even as Australia attempts to meet tougher climate targets.

Earlier this month, Marthudunera woman Raelene Cooper sought an injunction to delay the blasting, but that order is due to expire on Thursday, allowing Woodside to resume work it says is required to indicate the location of large gas reserves.

On Tuesday, Cooper argued her case in the Federal Court, saying she was not properly consulted by Woodside Energy before it announced the blasting, a precursor to exploratory drilling.

During the process, airguns fire compressed air toward the ocean floor and the soundwaves penetrate the seabed before bouncing back to receivers towed by a boat. The pattern of the soundwaves gives geologists an indication of oil and gas reserves trapped under the ocean bedrock.

According to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, the noise can reach 250 decibels, around a million times “more intense” than the loudest whale sounds.
“Now, that’s really problematic if you’re a whale because whales depend on their hearing for everything – to navigate, to find their mates and their food,” said Richard George, Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner.

“So, a deaf whale is a dead whale.”

Woodside Energy plans to extract millions of tons of gas from the Scarborough field, about 375 kilometers (233 miles) off the coast of Western Australia, mostly for export to Asia.

The project was signed off by the previous Australian government led by Scott Morrison, however it retains the support of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s administration, despite its pledge of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Gas is generally less carbon-intensive than coal, but it’s still a planet-warming fossil fuel, and there is a growing understanding that its infrastructure leaks huge amounts of methane – a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the shorter term.

Australia’s offshore oil and gas regulator, NOPSEMA, approved the blasting in July, despite acknowledging that Woodside may not have identified all Indigenous people in need of consultation on the seismic blasting plans, or given them adequate time to be consulted.

In a statement to CNN, Woodside said it had “consulted extensively on our environment plans, dedicating time and effort so our approach to environmental management and [Environmental Plan] consultation meets our current understanding of regulatory requirements and standards.”

Woodside Energy provided CNN with its marine environmental plan for Scarborough dated June 2023.

The document lists dozens of threatened and migratory species of sharks, mammals, reptiles and birds that can be found in the vicinity of the blast zone, including loggerhead and leatherback turtles, great white sharks and pygmy blue whales.

Greenpeace said Woodside’s plans “skirt close” to a major migration route for pygmy blue whales, a smaller subspecies of blue whale that travels north each year from the Antarctic into waters off Australia’s northwest.

The population size of pygmy blue whales is unclear, but the Australian government considers the mammal to be endangered.

The government’s species profile warns about the dangers of “man-made noise” to the whales, saying it can “potentially result in injury or death, masking of vocalisations, displacement from essential resources (e.g. prey, breeding habitat), and behavioural responses.”

“Potential sources of man-made underwater noise interference in Australian waters include seismic surveys for oil, gas and geophysical exploration,” the profile adds.

However in its environmental report, Woodside said any impact on whales would be short term.

“There will be no lasting effect on whales, however there could be short term hearing impacts,” Woodside wrote in its report.

The company also said it “will have dedicated marine fauna observers and systems which can listen for whale song on some vessels” and that the “presence of whales can postpone activities.”


United Australia Party senator Ralph Babet and founder Clive Palmer fail in Voice referendum court bid

United Australia Party senator Ralph Babet and founder Clive Palmer have lost a court bid to count crosses on Voice referendum ballot papers as a "No" vote.

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) maintains that on October 14, the word "Yes" or a tick will be counted as a "Yes" vote, but a cross, or "X" will not be counted as a "No" vote, because its meaning is ambiguous.

Mr Babet and Mr Palmer sought an urgent Federal Court ruling that any ballot papers with just an "X" alone in the voting space provided, would show that a voter does not approve of the proposed change to the constitution.

They also proposed an alternative ruling that ballot papers with just a tick symbol should be counted as informal votes, saying it would not prove a voter intended it to be affirmative of change.

According to the AEC, to correctly cast a vote in this referendum, people should write "Yes," in the designated box, or "No".

The AEC has strongly urged voters not to use ticks or crosses on their ballot forms.

In its advice, the commission says crosses are used on many forms in daily life, and could mean approval or rejection, and therefore will be counted as an informal vote.

A clearly defined tick can only be interpreted as showing approval for something, and so will be counted, but the AEC has asked that voters "please don't" use symbols.




Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Perth low-sensory nightclubbing experience a hit for people with a disability

I am delighted to hear of this. Fortunately, I am a high-functioning autistic but I still did from an early age experience basic autism problems. I have never been able to tolerate nightclubs or big party scenes. I would have been glad of an alternative when I was young

Consider a packed, dimly lit nightclub full of loud raucous conversations and music.

It can cause sensory overload for neurodiverse people, prompting them to wonder if they should have stayed home because they find it incredibly difficult to acclimatise to an unaccommodating reality.

It is far more difficult to meet new people and form friendships when pubs, bars, and nightclubs do not accommodate disabled patrons.

But in Perth, there is a dedicated group working with young people to break that barrier. Community Access Squad (CAS) is specifically aimed at supporting people with a range of disabilities to build confidence through socialising, including in the local nightclub scene.

Tarkin Barker loves the group's low-sensory Dance Ability club nights in Fremantle. The 20-year-old, with autism and an intellectual disability, said he wouldn't have gone to a nightclub by himself without his support worker.

"At night I feel more vulnerable and do not go out without family or formal support," Mr Barker said. "In noisy and busy places, I require assistance, and I feel overwhelmed when faced with aggression."

Kelly Buckle, who organises the event, said it's a welcoming environment for people of all disabilities. "Lights are used but no strobes due to seizures, with the music starting low, but it does build," she said.

"We provide ear plugs and a quiet area to desensitise, there is also a garden bar which we also have access to.

"We have photo cards on the bar for those that are minimally verbal to show the bar staff what they would like to drink." Ms Buckle said she hires the whole of the nightclub and it's a private event.

Mr Barker said it's one of his favourite events on his social calendar. "It is a friendly environment and there is staff to make sure everything is safe," he said.

"Going to this nightclub event has allowed me to be part of the community and be independent from my family."

Michael Gray attended the one of the club nights last week and said it was a fun environment for everyone. "[I enjoyed the] music and dancing with all my friends and just being able to let loose and let my hair down and I don't get to do that often," he said. "So, it's just fun."

Mr Gray said it's a great way to get people together. "Kelly [Ms Buckle] has always been very open and allowed anyone with disabilities, anyone to come and express themselves and have fun," he said.

Professor Andrew Whitehouse from the Telethon Kids Institute said there were a range of challenges autistic people face in social situations.

"[These] can include difficulties in reading non-verbal cues and body language, sensory differences that can lead to overwhelming situations environments, and a preference for routine," he said.


Over 300 Threatened Eagles Killed or Injured by Wind Turbines in Tasmania: Study

Over the past decade, wind turbines and transmission lines have led to the deaths or injuries of 321 threatened eagles in Tasmania, according to a study.

More cases are believed to be unreported due to a lack of systemic research on wind farms and public information.

It found that from 2010-2022, wind farms caused the deaths of 268 eagles and injured 53, with state-owned power company TasNetworks reporting 139 deaths, and eagle rescuers witnessing 91 deaths and 50 injuries.

Study author Gregory Pullen said the number of eagle deaths was a “stark reminder” that an urgent solution was needed to mitigate further harm to the vulnerable species.

“The real number can only be higher since surveying at wind farms is incomplete,” Mr. Pullen noted in the study.

“Specifically, it is only close to turbines, is periodic, and does not involve all turbines or all habitat around each turbine, scrub often being excluded.”

Of great concern is that 272 deaths involved the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, and 49 of the vulnerable white-bellied sea eagles.

Both species could face further risk as the expansion of wind turbine construction continues amid the federal government’s net-zero push.

“Accelerated deaths of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea-eagle are a grim reality if thousands of new wind turbines and hundreds of kilometres of transmission lines are erected across Tasmania to meet a legislated doubling of renewable energy production by 2040,” Mr. Pullen said.

The study estimated that less than 1,000 Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles remain and emphasised ongoing monitoring to ensure the species does not become extinct.

It includes observing the number of eagles, stability of breeding pairs, nesting success and surviving chicks, presence of juvenile birds, and whether disruption to the natural habitat causes dislocation.

While the Tasmanian government has guidelines in place to protect threatened eagles, Mr. Pullen found that these have not contributed to real-life decisions regarding wind farm placement.

For instance, despite great differences in eagle densities across Tasmania, there are currently no designated "no turbine zones."

Some researchers have suggested Tasmanian eagles be fitted with GPS trackers, but the concept has been slow to establish and has yet to be used in wind farm planning.

The study comes as Tasmanian authorities continue their push towards net zero, recently inking a deal with the German city Bremen.

State Energy Minister Guy Barnett said the collaboration was evidence of the state's plan to become a leader in large-scale green hydrogen production by 2030 to meet both domestic and international demand.

“This joint declaration demonstrates the opportunity the rest of the world sees in Tasmania and confidence in the government’s renewable energy agenda,” Mr. Barnett said in a statement on Sept. 17.

“Tasmania is well placed, with our 100 percent renewable electricity, abundant water supplies, and excellent port infrastructure to seize these important opportunities with international partners.”

Scientist Questions Wind Power Reliability

There are concerns, however, over the viability of large-scale renewable energy generation. One Oxford University mathematician and physicist has criticised wind power saying it is historically and scientifically unreliable, noting that governments are prioritising "windfarm politics" over numerical evidence.

Professor Emeritus Wade Allison made the assertion in response to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where the “instinctive reaction” around the world was to embrace renewables.

“Today, modern technology is deployed to harvest these weak sources of energy. Vast ‘farms’ that monopolise the natural environment are built, to the detriment of other creatures,” Mr. Allison said in the report, published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

“Developments are made regardless of the damage wrought. Hydro-electric schemes, enormous turbines, and square miles of solar panels are constructed, despite being unreliable and ineffective.”


New Zealand's housing density experiment saw approvals for new builds in Auckland 'skyrocket' while house prices kept climbing

Deregulation works its usual magic

There is a place just a few hours from Australia's east coast where a change in policy has seen the number of approvals for new homes "skyrocket" while increases in rents and house prices have been kept to moderate levels.

In Auckland, the council has been running an experiment, and at the heart of it is a bold decision to remove restrictions around zoning, opening up suburban blocks to higher-density developments.

The test case went so well, New Zealand's national government adopted a version of it for the whole country, but recently the opposition withdrew its support, meaning the upcoming election could change things.

There are all kinds of arguments against the idea of opening up suburban blocks to higher-density housing, and often the debate is a hypothetical one.

But the Auckland up-zoning change happened in 2016.

Since then, blocks of land that were once the site of single-family homes have been developed into new medium and high-density housing projects all over the city — and now the data is in.

The top line is that building consents — or council approvals for new homes — started to increase the moment the new approach to zoning was proposed.

Then, the data shows, rents started to stabilise, with Auckland's rents now rising at a slower rate than New Zealand's other major cities.

House prices are still going up, just at a slower pace. And now indicators are showing housing affordability is slowly improving.

Research economist Matthew Maltman said: "I have seen very few economic phenomena like it." "The new plan came into place and just absolutely skyrocketed these dwelling consents," he said.

He said New Zealand was "broadly a pretty comparable country to Australia" and the experiment showed what was possible.

"And we have all these debates about how can we increase housing supply. How can we improve affordability?" Mr Maltman said. "And there's this place that's not far away from us that's actually done it and implemented these reforms that people have been talking about for years."

At the heart of the experiment is an ambition to use land inside the city of Auckland more efficiently — growing by densification, as opposed to sprawl.

That approach keeps new housing close to existing infrastructure such as transport, schools and employment hubs.

Ryan Greenaway-McGrevy, an associate professor in economics at the University of Auckland, said prior to the 2016 change, most of the city was zoned for buildings of no more than two storeys high and covering a maximum of 35 per cent of the block.

"Those are sort of typical, single-family detached policy settings, and so those restrictions were relaxed to various degrees," he said.

"In the residential zone that allows the most density, you can build five to seven storeys now and have a site-coverage ratio of 50 per cent."

Auckland's suburbs have been transforming. A space that was once quarantined for a small cottage now accommodates multiple families.

Not every project that is approved to be built actually is, but research suggests that in New Zealand more than 90 per cent of building consents turn into bricks and mortar projects.

Another caveat to keep in mind is that the data that shows how many new buildings are being approved does not factor in those old dwellings that were demolished to make way for the modern developments.

But five years after zoning regulations were relaxed across more than three-quarters of Auckland, Dr Greenaway-McGrevy's research has found the changes have resulted in more than 20,000 additional homes across the city.

"It's not just about developers," Dr Greenaway-McGrevy said.

"It enables the state to provide medium and high-density housing as well.


Surging migration, housing crisis leave door open for Coalition

You may have read about the migrant crisis engulfing the small Italian island of Lampedusa. Ten thousand uninvited arrivals reached its shores in one week, eventually to be relocated elsewhere in the EU.

Needless to say, 10,000 in one week sounds an awful lot but here’s the thing: in Australia there are now more than 10,000 migrants arriving by plane each week.

To be sure, they are coming here on visas, but the intention of many is to stay, at least for as long as possible. Close to 100,000 recent arrivals have now applied for humanitarian visas, which will involve many years of assessments and appeals.

According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, net overseas migration (long-term arrivals minus long-term departures) reached 454,000 in the year ending March this year.

The largest component is student arrivals. The annual increase in Australia’s population was a massive 563,000 people or 2.2 per cent. The NOM made up 80 per cent of the increase. Most new migr­ants head for Melbourne or Sydney.

Illustrating the naivety of the Treasurer on this issue, Jim Chalmers has simply asserted “the migration numbers are recovering. That’s not a government target or policy. That’s the demand-driven part of the program. It largely reflects the fact that international students are coming back quicker. That’s why we’re seeing these slightly higher numbers.”

In fact, the current numbers are significantly ahead of Treasury’s forecasts of peak NOM of 400,000.

Migrant numbers of this magnitude are both ill-judged and unmanageable. And unlike Europe, where action is difficult, the Australian government could act to reduce the migrant intake but simply refuses to do so. The simplest route would be to put caps on uncapped temporary visas but there are a number of options.

Under Labor, resources in the Department of Home Affairs to process visas have been ramped up to speed up visa processing. Boasts are now made about the number of visa applications being approved and the short time involved. Close to 90 per cent of all student visa applications are approved. The figures are quite staggering. In December last year, for instance, 97,000 student visas were granted compared with 24,000 approved in the previous December.

If we extrapolate the figures we are already at a record number of student visa holders in Australia, eclipsing the previous record. There has been a massive shift in the source countries, with very strong growth from India, Colombia, Brazil, The Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Those on student visas no longer have to hide their real intentions – to stay in the country after they graduate – which has been made easier by the close-to-automatic issuing of lengthy post-graduation visas.

Earlier in the year the government also received a very unhelpful report chaired by former senior bureaucrat Martin Parkinson that recommended all temporary migrants be given a pathway to permanent residence.

However, even the most ardent supporters of a large migrant intake and the benefits of a big Australia recognise there are annual limits to the extent to which migrants can be absorbed without adverse consequences for the local population as well as the migrants themselves. There is no doubt that a NOM of more than 400,000 a year – indeed, more than 200,000 a year – is beyond the absorptive capacity of the country.

The argument that the government’s hands are tied because of the need to fill skilled job vacancies is totally misleading. The vast majority of the migrant intake is not skilled and even when they complete their qualifications, overseas-born graduates are much less likely to fill professional or managerial occupations than graduates born here.

Certainly, international students undertake unskilled and semi-skilled work, but the case for a large migrant intake has always been made on the basis of a strong skill bias.

To preference employers seeking workers because they can’t find locals or don’t want to bid up wages is a serious policy mistake. Just as a lack of capital can thwart the operation and development of businesses, so can the lack of workers.

The government should not be in the game of seeking to fill all these worker gaps through facilitating migration, just as it wouldn’t want to cover an insufficiency of capital.

The better alternative is to allow the labour market to allocate workers to their best use and to limit the use of migration. Some firms may just have to shrink.

It doesn’t take an economics degree to realise this surge in the population would put immense strain on the housing situation and this is exactly what is playing out, particularly in the cities to which the migrants are flocking.

The vacancy rates for rental properties are at historic lows and rents are rising very strongly, well above the rate of inflation. The fact federal ministers can express concern for those adversely affected by the housing crisis yet do nothing to curtail the size of the migrant intake underscores a wilful downplaying of the connection.

The reality is that all the government housing plans announced thus far, including the federal one, don’t touch the sides when it comes to closing the gap between demand for housing and the supply.

Setting meaningless targets is similarly unhelpful. The federal government has declared that 1.2 million homes will be built in the next five years even though Australia has never achieved anything close to that figure.

And wait for this: according to the most recent figures, annual housing starts have hit a decade-low of just under 60,000. Just in case you think the newly created Housing Australia Future Fund will make a difference, it is anticipated that a mere 30,000 new homes will be built over five years as a result of this initiative and it will not begin for at least another year.

The reality is that government plans have a nasty habit of coming up short and the only sustainable way to deal with the housing imbalance is via private supply responding to private demand.

In the meantime our urban landscapes will be transformed from the previous predominance of detached housing to clusters of poor-quality high-rise apartment buildings. Our cities are already rapidly changing and not for the better in the minds of many.

The consequences of the migrant surge do not stop at the housing market. Congestion, crowded schools and hospitals, deteriorating social amenity, more generally, are some of the impacts.

The federal government can kiss goodbye to its emissions reduction pledge given such strong population growth.

Survey after survey point to the lack of public support for high rates of immigration. The vast majority want a return to previous levels – NOM was around 100,000 a year in the earlier years of the century; some would even prefer a complete pause.

But the politicians would rather prioritise the wishes of the vested interests seeking more migrants – the property developers, big business, universities and, bizarrely, even state governments.

If we think of this issue in a global context, people are on the move, be it via legal or illegal channels. Europe, Britain and the US are being overwhelmed by migrants, in particular. Political parties that support restrictions on immigration are gaining momentum.

There is a real opportunity for the Coalition to differentiate itself from Labor on this topic and thereby break from the bipartisan endorsement of big Australia.

It may take some courage, but is likely to be rewarded by increased support from voters.




Monday, September 25, 2023

Rooftop solar 'cannibalising' power prices as Australian generators pay to stay online

"Ecological" power generation is basically nuts. It tries to get something stable out of power sources with wildly fluctuating outputs. Basically, everybody loses. For much of the day both the ecological generators AND the conventional generators lose -- as a big daytime electicity suplus plunges power prices so low that ALL generators get nothing or near nothing for their output

Daytime power prices are plunging into negative territory – meaning generators have to pay to produce – as renewable energy increasingly cannibalises the market, according to experts.

As the share of green energy in Australia's biggest electricity system momentarily reached a record high of 70 per cent this week, energy software company Gridcog said "price cannibalisation" was becoming an increasingly common phenomenon.

Wholesale power prices in the national electricity market across the eastern states dropped to as low as -$64 per megawatt hour last Saturday, when soaring output from millions of rooftop solar panels flooded into the system.

The phenomenon is particularly pronounced in mild, sunny conditions and especially on weekends, when solar output is at its highest but demand for electricity is relatively low.

In a post to its social media followers, Gridcog said large-scale solar farms were, perversely, being hit hardest by the trend because rooftop solar was generally beyond the control of the market operator.

It noted utility-scale solar plants were having to pare back generation or switch off entirely during such periods to avoid having to pay to maintain production.

"Price cannibalisation is a major emerging feature of the energy transition," the company wrote on LinkedIn.

"It occurs when increased volumes of renewables with the same generation profile produce at the same time.

"This depresses prices in the market, often to the point that prices turn negative, and it presents a serious challenge for investors, particularly of utility-scale projects."

The firm said the trend was likely to accelerate as ever-more solar was added to household and business rooftops across the country.

More than 3.3 million Australian homes have solar panels – almost one in three – and there are forecasts this will almost double by 2032.

"These systems compete directly with large utility-scale assets connected to the transmission system," Gridcog wrote.

"As an aside, it also demonstrates the dominance that distributed [rooftop] solar has in Australia compared to utility-scale, something we expect to see more of in other markets in coming years."

Dylan McConnell, a senior research associate from the University of New South Wales, said rooftop solar was no longer a marginal player but central to the running of the grid.

He said the technology was reshaping the power system in sometimes unexpected ways. "It's very significant in some jurisdictions," Dr McConnell said. "It varies across the country, but in places like South Australia there are periods where production from rooftop solar actually exceeds the demand of the entire state. "It's huge."

Dr McConnell said SA was an extreme example of a different, though related, phenomenon known as minimum operational demand.

The term referred to the minimum level of demand for power from the grid.

Crucially, it stripped out the demand that customers were meeting themselves through resources that sat behind the meter — principally, rooftop solar.

Dr McConnell said generation from rooftop solar panels was so great at times that it was not only meeting owners' demands, but also those of most other customers as well.

He said this was pushing demand for power from the grid ever lower and squeezing out conventional generators such as coal- and gas-fired plants.

But Dr McConnell said the electricity system was not ready to run without those generators, which were increasingly having to ramp up and down to cope with the intermittency of solar supply.

"The other day in NSW, [coal generation] was just above two gigawatts in the middle of the day, and then that evening it was above 9GW," he said.

"So we had a 7GW ramp in the space of a few hours — they're capable of doing it.

But then, I guess more importantly, is the impact on economic viability." That, says Dr McConnell, represents the challenge.

"When you have low prices in the middle of the day and low volumes, is the increase in prices in the evening and the higher volumes there enough to offset that? The answer to that seems to be no."

Alex Wonhas, a former electricity system planner, noted that record lows for demand for power from the grid were being broken routinely as more and more rooftop solar was added to the system.

"At times when the renewable resources are high they will replace the conventional generators," Dr Wonhas said.

"But then at other times when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining we need either storage or conventional generators to step in.

"So it's a much more dynamic and much orchestrated system that we're facing in the future."

For Dr McConnell, the growth of rooftop solar in Australia would continue to test other generators and the power system more broadly.


No diversity in public support for "Voice"

One thing that is now undeniably clear is that virtually all of our elites who, with tedious regularity, espouse the dogma of diversity are unfluctuatingly uniform in their opinions.

No one could genuflect at the altar of diversity more assiduously than just pushed out Qantas head-honcho Alan Joyce. And so there was never going to be any surprise as regards his views on how to vote in the upcoming Voice referendum. Or whether he would spend shareholders’ monies, lots of them, to push that preferred line.

Try to name a senior corporate executive in a publicly listed company in this country who has come out openly for the ‘No’ side, the one polls show is supported by over half of Australians. Go on. I’ll wait while you ponder given that I’ve got a few hours till my delayed Qantas flight leaves. Or what about the charities? All sorts of them are sending monies and support to the ‘Yes’ side; they are dipping into the charitable donations that were sent to them by regular people, of whom at least half will vote ‘No’ if the polls are to be believed. Again, try to name the head of a single charity who has come out for ‘No’. I don’t know about you dear readers but from this day forth I will be asking if any charity took sides on the Voice referendum before giving it a penny. And that most certainly also goes for giving money to any university. Give money to one of the unis that came out officially for ‘Yes’ and you are part of the problem, not the solution. Ditto for every single one of the charities in this country. If they and their boards opted to come out for ‘Yes’ then all of us ‘No’ voters should tell them where to get off next time the request for money comes in. Don’t just stop giving. Tell them explicitly why not and make sure your answer gets to the CEO or Board.

We can play the same game with each and every one of our universities’ Vice-Chancellors and their staggeringly large retinues of virtually world’s highest paid Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellors et. al. (and yes, there are Deputy Vice-Chancellors ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ who define what it means to have a ‘bullsh*t’ job, one where getting rid of the job altogether would make the enterprise work better) all busy shoving Woke orthodoxy down the throats of faculty and students alike. You’d be hard-pressed to get an independent thought out of a handful of our university high-level administrators as regards the transgender issue, the old issue of stopping the boats, the former government’s response to Covid, same-sex marriage, cutting back on the incessant ‘acknowledgements of country’, the list goes on into the horizon. And when it comes to the Voice referendum, bravery for these people amounts to staying formally neutral. Did you know that over half of our universities have come out officially for ‘Yes’? Not a single one has come out for ‘No’. Rather, the remainder are purportedly staying neutral, though many of those are pushing information sessions for faculty and students so skewed (‘Getting to Yes’ sums it up) they would make a feminist seminar on toxic masculinity look even-handed by comparison.

I don’t suppose I need even bother to point out that the worldviews of the Canberra public service bigwigs cover the whole spectrum of viewpoints from A almost to B. Well, on a good day that is, while they are all wearing purple and celebrating International Refugee Day before heading off to a three-day Welcome to Country ceremony.

Put bluntly, and all jesting aside, under the banner of ‘diversity’ we are being delivered incredible uniformity of thought. ‘Monolithic orthodoxy’ sums it up. Now, of course, in part this remarkable uniformity of expressed views is just cowardice. Quiet dissenters and apostates have comfortable, highly-paid jobs; some have families to feed and mortgages to pay. They go with the flow and keep their heads down. Some no doubt complain privately at home about the wall-to-wall woke orthodoxy. But then many are real believers. These people hire fellow travellers and they sure don’t look keen to hire heterodox non-conformists and encourage them to speak their minds.

At this point I hear a few of you muttering, ‘Why does it really matter? This is all just cultural stuff. Why fight the culture wars? The left has won.’ I strongly disagree. Everything is downstream of culture and we all do need to fight on this most-important-of-all terrain. But suppose that’s wrong. Well, this all-encompassing canonical orthodoxy of thinking also plays out in non-culture-related areas too. Just think about the lack of any independent views during the Morrison government’s response to Covid. My kingdom for an Anders Tegnell or Ron DeSantis in Australia.

Or take this country’s monetary and fiscal policy. For years and years before Covid we were printing money with a gay abandon (a phrase you wouldn’t use in the Canberra public service I suspect). Interest rates were down around zero. Now I grew up under the dominant economic view that policy settings ought to favour savers more than borrowers. To encourage the good old-fashioned Protestant virtues and all that. Not any more, that’s for sure. So when did the Reserve Bank and Treasury become wall-to-wall Keynesians? Because it sure seems to me that this is the dominant – make that virtually the sole – view of those pulling our economic levers. It’s a monolithic orthodoxy. Frankly, I think we need a ‘red team’ of Milton Friedman types to prod and push back against what we’re doing. Forget blaming Russia. Grossly over the top government spending and the obscene expansion of the money supply by our and others’ central banks would be what I nominated as the main cause of our bad inflation. Followed by the terrible decision-making during the pandemic. Nor do current interest rates seem to me likely to get the actual problem of inflation under control – so no, I don’t trust the official package of goods used to measure inflation at the moment. Remember, inflation is a tax. It benefits governments with big debts and hits the hard-working middle classes. It’s a form of government theft. Last Sunday night before putting on the TV I went to get some petrol and a couple of Magnum ice-cream bars. The latter were six dollars each. I can remember driving to the same petrol station when they were half that.

I ask again, do our top economic decision-makers encourage a bit of unorthodox thinking? A red team? Or is it wall-to-wall Keynesian orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that Liberal Cabinet Ministers can’t be bothered to push back against.

Last point about all this orthodoxy of outlook across all of our elite institutions. You know what it tends to do? It tends to foster amongst these people a toxic dose of their own perceived virtue, as though after 3.8 billion years on earth they are the pinnacle of moral evolution. The odds, I’m afraid, are against this self-delusion.


Will no university students ever fail now?

British politician Enoch Powell famously said ‘All political lives end in failure’ – a proposition amply corroborated by his own career. Scholars are vulnerable to a similar fate. To paraphrase the famous anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, academics can be certain of two things: someday, they will all be dead, and eventually, they will all be proven wrong. (Sahlins’ tip for a successful scholarly career: make sure the first precedes the second.)

Even superstars fail. In a classic Nike advertisement, basketball legend Michael Jordan confesses to missing more than 9,000 shots and losing almost 300 basketball games in his career. ‘Twenty-six times,’ he says, ‘I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot – and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life.’ Then he delivers the line that has attracted millions of people to view the ad on YouTube: ‘And that is why I succeed.’

Jordan’s message is motivating and inspiring, but it’s also worrying. If failure is essential to success, then what are the prospects for our current crop of students who have never experienced failure of any kind? No school student is held back, summer school repeats are rare, and first-class honours are becoming the typical university grade. What happens when these students move out of education, where success is now the norm, to a world in which failure is ubiquitous? Never having had to deal with setbacks, never having failed at anything, will they have the capacity to cope? We will soon find out.

Over the past 20 years, government policy has resulted in an avalanche of university students. The highest-ranked institutions swept up the best-prepared applicants, forcing the less prestigious universities to lower their entry standards drastically. Not surprisingly, many of these poorly prepared students are finding themselves unable to complete their courses; dropout rates have climbed to record levels.

Under the rules governing accreditation, Australian universities have a legal requirement to ensure that the students they admit have the educational background and study support to complete their courses. It appears that universities have flaunted this requirement, so the government has stepped in.

In a daring display of its unshakeable commitment to the academic success of its constituents, the federal government has introduced legislation that could revolutionise, or perhaps obliterate, the way we understand the concept of failure. Call it the ‘No Student Left Behind – Especially If They’ve Failed’ Act. It’s an ambitious move, guaranteeing the total eradication of that ghastly ‘F’ word from the Australian educational system: failure.

The Australian government is mandating that university students who score less than 50 per cent in their exams shall be entitled to a slew of educational life-savers. University-funded tutoring, counselling, examination do-overs, special exams and extended deadlines are all on the table. With these bountiful resources at their disposal, no student will ever feel the sting of failure again. And to ensure universities are as invested in the success of their students as the government, a hefty fine of $18,780 per student will be introduced for those institutions that fail to help their students rise above the 50 per cent benchmark.

If Dante were alive, he might have added a tenth circle to his Inferno for the university administrators who will have to deal with this fiscal sword of Damocles. Instead of cramming more students into lecture halls and labs, universities will have to find funds for an army of tutors, counsellors and exam monitors.

But worry not, for the Education Minister has spoken: ‘Universities should be helping students to succeed, not to fail.’ It’s a comforting thought, almost reminiscent of a fairy tale ending. It gives students a cosy sense of assurance that the government is there, always ready to sweep in and replace the big bad wolf of failure with the benevolent fairy godmother of success. But will it work?

Tim Harford fears it won’t. In his book, Adapt: Why Success Always Follows Failure, Harford claims that messing up is central to learning. Students gain more from mistakes, blind alleys and dead ends than from success. Failures give students the opportunity to ‘pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again’.

Such resilience is essential because becoming an expert is a long process, at least 10,000 hours, says Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers. Expertise takes a long time to acquire because, outside of universities, 50 per cent is not good enough. The real world has higher standards. Businesses will collapse if their accountants are only 50 per cent accurate, computer programs that work only half the time are useless, and no one would be happy if surgeons fluffed half their operations. A 10,000-hour apprenticeship provides plenty of opportunities for students to learn from their errors, and everyone knows that practice makes perfect.

Failing is not only essential to honing one’s skills, but it also provides the chance to cultivate oneself (‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’). The character traits forged by experiencing and overcoming failure are necessary for success in any field. Tenaciousness, resilience, drive, perseverance and the ability to delay gratification while working toward a distant goal are just as crucial in achieving success as intelligence. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth calls this combination of character traits ‘grit’. It comes from confronting failure and overcoming it. Without failure, progress is impossible.

Universities, faced with high costs and potential fines, may be tempted to take the easy way out and pass every single student. That view might sound cynical, but it is realistic. Will a university degree retain its lustre when passing becomes an expected, almost mundane occurrence rather than a reward for hard work, grit and resilience? If everyone is a winner, is anyone winning anything at all?

But these are long-term concerns and our politicians are unable to think beyond the next election campaign. They look forward to offering voters a world where failure ceases to exist and success requires no effort. A world in which every student gets a degree just for showing up.

It’s an idyllic vision that might catch on across the globe. Imagine a future in which everyone gets a shot at the Grand Dream, even if their exam scores are below 50 per cent, a time in which the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ has shut its doors forever. Fans of Horatio Alger novels, the stoic pioneers who defined the ethos of hard work and success through perseverance, must be turning in their graves.

The moral of the story, dear reader, is that university failure is on the brink of extinction. At least, it is Down Under. This extraordinary development will have vast repercussions for education, success, and the very nature of our universities.

Of course, we want our students to succeed. But passing every student will ensure just the opposite. By preventing students from experiencing failure, we will keep them from gaining the self-confidence that comes from overcoming it.

If we want young people to be able to handle life’s inevitable slings and arrows, then for their own sake, we must let them fail.


Qld Young Australian of the Year Jean Madden wins fresh victory over police

A YOUNG Australian of the Year wrongly accused of defrauding her own charity for the homeless has won a fresh victory after police were ordered to pay her appeal costs.

Street Swags founder Jean Ellen Madden was vindicated in 2019 after police dropped the last of 16 criminal charges brought against her alleging she had misappropriated funds from the charity between 2015 and 2016.

At a final hearing in December 2019 when a police prosecutor revealed the charges would be discontinued, Ms Madden’s lawyers made an application for costs.

But the application was later refused by a magistrate in June 2020 who found any order for costs needed to have been made prior to the formal dismissal of the charges.

Ms Madden unsuccessfully appealed that decision in the District Court in July 2021 which affirmed the magistrate’s earlier decision.

But she took the fight to the Court of Appeal which ultimately ruled in her favour in March this year, setting aside the earlier decisions from the Magistrates Court and District Court.

The Court of Appeal remitted the costs application back to the Magistrates Court for hearing and determination at a date to be set.

Ms Madden has now had a fresh win in a decision handed down this month, with the appeal court ordering the Commissioner of Police to pay her costs of the appeals process through the District Court and the Court of Appeal.

“Fairness requires that the appellant be indemnified against the costs she incurred in order to obtain a result which accorded with the law, at least to the extent of costs on the standard basis,” the appeal judges wrote.

In 2010, Ms Madden was awarded the title of Queensland’s Young Australian of the Year after founding the charity Street Swags which created innovative, lightweight bedding for the homeless.

Between July 2016 and March 2018, police brought 16 charges against Ms Madden but they were discontinued over subsequent court appearances with the final charges discontinued in late 2019.

At the time, Ms Madden described the charges as malicious, saying the unfounded allegations had destroyed her career and the charity.




Sunday, September 24, 2023

Kerry White: Indigenous No campaigner describes the Stolen Generation as a 'mistruth'

That white social workers took abused black and mixed-race children out of their abusive families and fostered them to caring white families does NOT create a stolen generation. A rescued generation, more like it The families of origin sometimes wanted their children back but the social workers were rightly cautious about that. They would have been slow to return children of any colour to an abusive family. There is a high incidence of child abuse among Aborigines to this day

An indigenous No campaigner says use of the term Stolen Generation is among the 'mistruths' being raised in the debate over the Voice referendum.

Narungga woman Kerry White, who stood as a One Nation candidate in the last South Australian election and is scheduled to speak at a 'Freedom Rally' in Adelaide this weekend, made the comments at a No event in June.

This weekend's event is part of a series of No rallies across Australia standing against what it bills as 'hidden agendas of the Voice and other unlawful forms of tyranny'.

The protest also targets vaccine mandates and a bill to censor online 'misinformation' which has been proposed by Labor.

At a previous referendum event held in Adelaide in June, Ms White rationalised the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their families - known as the Stolen Generation - as sometimes necessary.

'Back in the early 1950s and 1960s, mixed race children were being removed and placed in institutions for their own safety,' she said. 'Mixed race children were not accepted by blacks or white, and were being abused.

'The problem is in rural and remote communities we are so far away from mainstream that a lot of things go unnoticed.'

Ms White is a board member for Recognise A Better Way, one of two prominent No campaigns rallying against the Voice.

Former Labor MP Gary Johns is another prominent member of the group, who was recently criticised for advocating for genetic testing to determine whether someone can be regarded as Aboriginal and be eligible for services and positions reserved for Indigenous people.

Dr Johns' comments sparked outrage from politicians and officials committed to the Yes vote.

Ms White has previously said things must change if Australia seeks to 'improve outcomes for Aboriginal people in rural and remote Australia' - but she does not think the Voice is the solution.

'What is clear is we need transparency, productivity and accountability for all the taxpayer dollars spent by organisations and the government.

'What we don't need is more of the same BS that for generations ... has been built on untruths, half-truths and fiction.'


Racists under every bed

Cancel culture is about to get interesting and happening right here on Australian campuses. Get your popcorn and tune in!

But be warned: the first episode – the cancelling of Alfred Deakin through the push to rename Deakin University – is dreadfully dull and predictable. It is episode two and three where it gets juicy, where the cancellers cannot escape the undeniable analogies between the deemed offences of Deakin and those of left-wing heroes, John Curtin and (gasp) Gough Whitlam. The cancellers just haven’t realised this yet, which makes it particularly engaging.

Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s recap on developments from earlier in the month which set the scene.

As reported in the Age newspaper, academics and students at Deakin University have decided that the university’s name needs to change, because Alfred Deakin, a founding father and our second prime minister, was apparently – you guessed it – a racist.

The university leadership is resisting the change for the moment, but have established a truth-telling process to document Deakin’s record, which will inevitably add further pressure for a name change.

On what basis do they argue that Deakin was a racist? As it turns out, on the basis of some quite racist policies and statements, as viewed from today’s perspective. In particular, he supported the introduction of the White Australia policy when he was Australia’s first attorney general and continued this support in his times as prime minster.

According to the activists, one of his greatest sins was predicting that Australia would remain a white country in decades to come.

Deakin’s views on race would not be acceptable in Australia today, and I don’t know of a single parliamentarian who would hold such views. Today, we are the most successful multi-racial country and this is a great source of pride to the vast majority of us.

But at the time, Deakin’s views were mainstream. In fact, every political party, including the Labor party, supported the White Australia Policy and nearly the entire population tended to view people through a racial lens. As the federal Parliamentary Library notes, there was ‘almost universal support’ for restricting non-Europeans and the extensive parliamentary debate of the policy concerned the method of exclusion, rather than whether it should occur.

So why single out Alfred Deakin from the entire political class and population of the time? Particularly when Deakin is broadly regarded as an important figure in the development of modern Australia, including being critical in the creation of our federation.

I suspect because he is seen as a figure of the right. The National Union of Students’ Xavier Dupe is clear on this: ‘The University should be renamed, just like other institutions named after right-wingers,’ he is reported as saying.

The problem for left-wing activists, like Dupe, who want to reassess historical figures through the values of today is that their own heroes are likely to be caught up in the revisionism.

And this is certainly the case here with two of the giants of the left, John Curtin and Gough Whitlam. Both were substantial figures in Australia’s history; both have universities or university institutions named after them (Curtin University, the Whitlam Institute) and both said similarly objectionable things to Deakin.

Consider John Curtin’s position on the White Australia policy. He was an ardent supporter, telling the federal parliament in late 1941 that, ‘Our laws have proclaimed the standard of a White Australia…. It was devised for economic and sound humane reasons. It was not challenged for 40 years. We intend to keep it because we know it to be desirable.’

Gough Whitlam’s statements are not as directly analogous. After all, Australia’s discriminatory immigration policy had already been abolished for six years by the time he became prime minister.

However, his position on the south Vietnamese was arguably as appalling. When Saigon fell in April 1975, Whitlam overruled his Foreign Minister’s willingness to admit significant numbers of South Vietnamese refugees, famously telling Foreign Minister Willesee that he didn’t want an influx of ‘f-cking Vietnamese Balts’.

No Labor figure today tries to justify Whitlam’s position. Because it can’t be justified. But if cancel culture activists on campuses are consistent, then surely Curtin University and the Whitlam Institute are also targets for renaming?

Chris Watson, Labor’s first prime minister, was also amongst the Labor luminaries who supported racist policies. In fact, while many unions and Labor people at the time were against non-European immigration for industrial reasons – fearing an undercutting of wages – Chris Watson made it clear that racial impurity was his primary concern, stating, ‘The objection I have to the mixing of these coloured people with the white people of Australia… lies in the main with the possibility and probability of racial contamination.’

Should Watson also be cancelled? Watson doesn’t have a university named after him, but there is a federal electorate and Canberra suburb named in his honour – just like Deakin. Should they be renamed? Tony Burke, who holds the seat of Watson doesn’t think so. Nor does Anthony Albanese who, in his 2015 ‘Light on the Hill’ address, praised Chris Watson as a ‘great leader’ whose record speaks to ‘our [Labor] ideals’.

The truth is that no person in the past would withstand the scrutiny of everything they said if they are judged from today’s moral values. No political leader from the earlier days of Australia’s modern history. And what about the past family members of the activists? Even their own grandparents?

So how should we judge people like Deakin and Watson?

We certainly shouldn’t let left-wing activists be the moral arbiters. Rather, we should assess them in their historical context. This means being honest about our past – the good and the bad.


Australian students shun education degrees as fears grow over ‘unprecedented’ teacher shortage

Their pay is pretty good. It just needs the government to make classroom conditions acceptable. Unruly students need to be controlled

Graduating high school students are continuing to turn away from teaching degrees in huge numbers, early application data shows, as concern grows over “unprecedented” workforce shortages.

The data, provided to Guardian Australia from the Universities Admissions Centre, showed education degrees received just 1,935 first preferences this year, a 19.24% decline compared with 2023 and the lowest rate since at least 2016, when public records became available.

Overall, education was ranked seventh out of 11 major areas of study.

Health received the highest number of first preferences (9,008), followed by society and culture (8,463) and management and commerce (5,277).

The education minister, Jason Clare, said in the past 10 years the number of young people going into teaching had gone backwards by about 12%.

“Of those who do start a teaching degree, only 50% finish,” he said. “And of those who finish it, 20% are leaving after less than three years.

“Teachers do one of the most important jobs in the world and we need more of them.”

Clare pointed to new $40,000 teacher scholarships rolling out in coming weeks as part of the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan.

The scholarships will be available to 5,000 young people to become teachers provided they commit to the role for a number of years.

“In the next few weeks, we’re also launching a national campaign to promote the teaching profession, to encourage people to want to become a teacher by raising the status of the profession in the community,” Clare said.

“I want to change the way we as a country think about our teachers, and the way our teachers think our country thinks of them.”

The Australian Education Union federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said it was “vital” greater measures were taken to encourage students into teaching for public education to remain viable.

The federal government’s teacher workforce shortage paper, released last August, found schools were facing “unprecedented teacher supply and retention challenges”, with workforce shortages one of the “single biggest issues” facing teacher employers.

“We are concerned the status of teaching is not necessarily seen as an attractive option for students and that requires governments to invest in attraction and retention mechanisms,” Haythorpe said.

She pointed to teaching degree fees and the burden of unpaid placements placing pressure on students amid a cost of living crisis.

“Federal, state and territory governments must take bold and urgent action … governments at all levels should invest in paid placements for teaching students, proper mentoring programs and lowering the costs of teaching degrees.”

New South Wales and Victoria have both made significant announcements to address the workforce shortage this month.

Last week, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced students enrolled to become secondary school teachers would have their degrees paid by the state government, in an effort to fill “crippling” staff shortages in the sector.

It followed a deal sealed between the NSW deputy premier and education minister, Prue Car, and the teachers’ federation for starting salaries to rise from $75,791 to $85,000 and the highest salary from $113,042 to $122,100.

A submission by the former NSW government to the federal government’s Initial Teacher Education (ITE) review in 2021 acknowledged enrolments in the state had declined by almost 30% from 2014 to 2019.

“Many high achieving students are not choosing teaching as a career,” it read.


Our moral guardians: Climate activists teach children to send cookie malware to skeptical grandparents

The Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) is asking supporters to send deceptive links out to friends and family that look like a cookie recipe but embed software cookies instead on the victim’s computer. The digital cookie then pushes green climate videos into their feeds, (as if the ABC news wasn’t loaded enough).

Look out for any links to

The AYCC gets about $3m in donations, and even visits schools, teaching children how to cheat and lie to save the planet, or something like that. What are good family relationships built on after all, if not deception? What is science if it is not propaganda?

These are all good questions to raise with the children in your life and the schools in your area. Don’t wait for an email to arrive, thank the AYCC for providing the opportunity to start the conversation now.

If the believers are so caring, ethical and moral why are they teaching children it’s OK to deceive family members? Is this the kind of “fair and just” world we want to live in?

Call up schools and the local P&C and ask if they are aware the AYCC — which runs programs in schools — teaches children to fool parents and grandparents and use malware. Are these the kind of family values that belong in our schools? Will the local school guarantee that they will not allow this group to manipulate children?

The Australian exposed their crooked game this week, and traffic to has fallen to zero. So presumably the link trap will change. (The campaign has been put on hold).




Thursday, September 21, 2023

Qld. Deputy Premier slams ‘rich inner-city elites’ for trying to stop flights

He is referring to the Greens -- accurately

Deputy Premier Steven Miles has let fly at “wealthy inner-city elites”, accusing them of trying to clip Brisbane Airport’s wings by restricting flights and driving up airfares.

In an extraordinary attack, Mr Miles said the “elites” don’t want planes flying over their own homes or “working people” to be able to afford to fly.

His comments follow a bid by the Greens to impose a curfew and flight caps at Brisbane Airport “to bring peace and a good night’s sleep to thousands of Brisbane residents impacted by flight noise”.

Brisbane-based Greens federal MPs Elizabeth Watson-Brown, Max Chandler-Mather and Stephen Bates have championed a bill to introduce hourly flight caps and a late night curfew at the airport for non-emergency flights.

Ms Watson-Brown has proposed a radical plan to divert planes to Toowoomba’s Wellcamp Airport and put passengers on high-speed trains to Brisbane.

The bill – set to be debated in federal parliament next month – has been estimated to come at a cost of $3b a year to the state economy if enacted.

Sharing the stage with Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner at a major aviation industry conference in Brisbane last week, Mr Miles joined forces with his political foe to slam the plan.

“Our airport is just so critical to our region’s economic prosperity, and I can’t think of anything more hypocritical than the Greens political party’s campaign against the airport,” he told a panel discussion at the CAPA (Centre for Aviation) Australia Pacific Aviation Summit.

“The blokes running this campaign are just about the most frequent travellers from Brisbane Airport to their engagements on (ABC show) Q+A and down to Canberra for the parliament.

“I’m an environmentalist, former environment minister and former conservation activist but the Greens are not a party of the environment – they’re a party of wealthy inner-city elites.

“And what they’re saying is that planes shouldn’t fly over the homes of wealthy inner-city elites, they should only fly over the homes of working people.

“And that only wealthy inner-city elites should be able to afford to fly but working people shouldn’t be able to afford to fly.

“That’s despite the fact that it’s those wealthy inner city elites who benefit disproportionately from the economic opportunity and prosperity that the airport delivers.”

Cr Schrinner said the Greens’ proposal was simplistic and would drive up travel costs and concentrate aircraft noise.

He said Brisbane City Council received far more complaints about barking dogs, loud parties and noisy air-conditioners than it did about airport noise.

“Offering simplistic solutions to this is not going to cut it,” he said.

“It’s a reminder that living in a large city is about managing impacts and noise. There are other ways to achieve that other than what’s being proposed.”

Meanwhile, the Senate inquiry into the federal government’s controversial decision to block extra Qatar Airways flights into Australia is due to sit in Brisbane next Tuesday.

The decision has also been blamed for helping keep international airfares sky-high, particularly out of Brisbane.

Brisbane Airport Corporation is understood to have made a submission to the inquiry.


Auditor-General urged to probe the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency

The Auditor-General has been urged to probe the alleged misuse of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds within Australia‘s largest Indigenous legal organisation, following explosive allegations of corruption and fraud amongst senior staff, two of whom are still employed.

Opposition legal affairs spokesperson Michaelia Cash referred the matter to Commonwealth Auditor-General Grant Hehir and the Australian National Audit Office earlier this month, pressing an investigation into the near-$20m provided to the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency every year.

The referral comes following extensive reporting in this masthead that revealed dozens of serious allegations of criminal conduct amongst NAAJA’s leadership team.

Those allegations included that finance chief Madhur Evans made a secret $20,000 payment into chairperson Colleen Rosas’ bank account, and former chief executive Priscilla Atkins used company funds to purchase artworks, flights, and vehicles including a $129,000 Range Rover.

NAAJA is currently receiving $83m over a five year period from the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP), which is helmed by the federal government.

Senator Cash requested Mr Hehir consider “an audit of arrangements under the NLAP that may result in the payment of Commonwealth money to NAAJA.”

“I refer to reports recently published in The Australian newspaper setting out claims regarding the administration of the NAAJA,” Senator Cash wrote in a letter to Mr Hehir, obtained by The Australian.

“The reports raise serious concerns about the potential misuse of Commonwealth money provided under the National Legal Assistance Partnership, and the efficacy of governance arrangements under that agreement.

“Among other things, the allegations give rise to concerns that Commonwealth money may have been used to support behaviour which, if proven, may constitute corruption or potential criminal conduct.”

Senator Cash continued: “Specifically, I ask that you consider a performance audit to assess the adequacy of data collection, performance monitoring and other governance arrangements under the NLAP, and whether adequate safeguards are in place to ensure that Commonwealth money is not being misused.”

She said if improvements to NAAJA were identified through the audit “I ask you to consider whether they ought to be implemented more generally in respect of funding to other service providers that is governed by the NLAP.”

Senator Cash said there was a “degree of urgency” to the issue, considering the government will reassess the NLAP next year ahead of its expiry in 2025.

“If the next iteration of the NLAP is to take account of any recommendations you may make about the adequacy of existing funding arrangements, it would be highly desirable for all parties to have the benefit of any ANAO report before negotiations commence,” she said.

Senator Cash took aim at Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus for shifting the onus onto the NT government and claiming the territory was responsible for administering the NLAP funds.

“With respect, if that is the case, that is all the more reason for an audit,” she wrote.

“If NLAP arrangements are such that the administration of Commonwealth funding is done at arm’s length, as the Attorney-General appears to contend, then the governance provisions in the intergovernmental agreement that allow the Commonwealth to appropriately monitor expenditure (and respond to any misuse of Commonwealth funds) are all the more important.”

NAAJA conducts the lion’s share of Indigenous legal cases in the NT, where crime has increased by double digits in the past year. The organisation employs 200 workers across Darwin, Palmerston, Katherine, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.

The Australian understands the NT Commission Against Corruption is investigating the allegations, many of which have come to light in a Federal Court case filed by Ms Atkins, who alleges she was fired from NAAJA after discovering the corrupt conduct of Ms Evans and Ms Rosas.

Ms Atkins claims Ms Rosas appointed her friends to senior positions within NAAJA, and requested her pay be given to her on a credit card so as not to alert the tax office and threaten her Centrelink pension.

Along with making the discreet $20,000 payment to Ms Rosas, Ms Atkins alleges Ms Evans left her mobile phone in offices to record unsuspecting colleagues, and bullied NAAJA workers.

NAAJA denies allegations that Ms Evans and Ms Rosas engaged in deceptive conduct, and claims Ms Atkins was fired for forging Ms Rosas’ signature on her contract extension document, securing her position as CEO – and its $350,000 salary – for a further five years.

NAAJA has also alleged Ms Atkins used company funds to buy nine vehicles, flights, clothes and artworks. Ms Atkins denies all allegations of misconduct.

Ms Rosas and Ms Evans continue to work for NAAJA.

Sources believe NAAJA will spend up to $1m on the trial, after it recruited global firm King & Wood Mallesons to represent them.

The matter is scheduled for trial from October 23.


Labor’s immigration hypocrisy: young and vulnerable hit hardest

Chris Minns – who lives in a house – seems to think you should live in an apartment, and the Labor Party doesn’t want any further questions on the subject.

Speaking at the Sydney 2050 Summit in May this year, he told the audience that ‘we have to get more comfortable with the idea of going up’.

But unfortunately for most people, Minns’ idea of ‘going up’ means their living standards going down, especially for the young people and workers who will likely be the ones getting crammed into these new apartment buildings.

Two recent polls show that people aren’t too happy about Minns’ idea, with more people preferring to cut migration than they would downsize into apartments.

A Twitter poll run by ABC’s Q+A showed that 65 per cent of Australians think the government should reduce the immigration intake to ease pressure on housing – matching roughly with several other polls showing similar results.

Meanwhile, less than half of people polled support Minns’ policy to increase supply through more apartments in city suburbs, coming in at a rather disappointing 48 per cent.

And is it any wonder, with a 2021 study by Strata Community Association NSW showing nearly four out of every ten new apartment complexes in NSW contained major flaws…

Sydney’s population growth, driven almost entirely by Federal Labor’s record overseas migration intake, is placing mountains of stress on the New South Wales housing and rental market.

To ease this pressure, state Labor is proposing building higher unit blocks alongside main roads and above train stations – perhaps not exactly what we had in mind when the party campaigned on ‘A Better Future’.

And though it may certainly sound like a solution, Minns’ ‘house for me and dog box for thee’ approach to fixing the housing crisis, reeks of elitism and political favouritism, as it completely ignores the community-preferred option of lowering migration.

Yet it’s no surprise really, because the truth is that maintaining high levels of migration is advantageous to Labor’s union and business mates, giving them an endless supply of job sites and workers.

Only it hurts the very people that voted for them, and Labor knows it.

In a recent sitting week, NSW Independent MP Rod Roberts asked Housing Minister Rose Jackson whether she would liaise with her federal counterparts to lower migration to help the housing crisis. Her response said it all.

Instead of conceding community concern about immigration, Rose instead resorted to calling the question a ‘dog whistle’.

One can only assume the 50 per cent of Labor voters who also want lower migration are dog whistling too.

The hypocrisy is astounding. Rose Jackson is also the Minister for Youth and Homelessness, two areas heavily affected, and least benefited, by mass migration.

On the youth front, young Australians, who are most likely to be renters or first-home buyers, are being squeezed out of both a housing market and rental market by record migrant arrivals of nearly 400,000 in the last year alone.

For example, recent data released by the Institute of Public Affairs shows that an incredible 70 per cent of new homes built last year were filled by international students alone.

And homeless numbers are up 5 per cent, with tent cities popping up around the state, as rental availability drops below 1.8 per cent.

This brave new Australia comes with deep social ramifications, including the delay of family formation, worsening of fertility rates, and even worsening mental health, as the stresses of trying to find a place to live weighs heavily.

And sadly, if you have a question about it, you’re dog-whistling.

On the altar of the housing market, working and young Australians are being sacrificed for the greater good of economic growth, and the Labor Party is using culture war tactics to silence any opposition to it.

With no end in sight, people will undoubtedly look for more radical solutions and fringe parties to show their anger, while parties like Labor will continue to try and grapple with this dual allegiance of the wealthy few, and the voting many.

In a way, Minns is achieving his goal of going up, except so far the only things ‘going up’ in New South Wales are the number of migrant arrivals, corporate and union profits, and the stress levels of people trying to find a place to live.

Everything else – living standards, birth rates, and young people’s patience – will continue declining.

If Labor ever truly does want to achieve their election promise of solving the housing crisis, they’ll first have to reconcile these deep hypocrisies of wanting high migration and low housing demand.

But don’t hold your breath, because right now all they’re doing is building castles in the sky, without any regard for what people really want.


Rollout rage: power struggle and a ‘shocked minister’

Infrastructure Minister Catherine King joined farmers, councils and environmentalists in attacking consultation on the Victorian-NSW Interconnector transmission project, which will plug renewables into the grid and help achieve Labor’s 2030 emissions ­reduction target.

Amid growing concerns in ­regional Australia about transmission line upgrades and offshore wind turbines, Ms King told the Australian Energy Market Operator to “engage thoroughly and honestly with impacted communities … from project conception, to construction and beyond”.

Ms King’s extraordinary intervention heaps pressure on Energy Minister Chris Bowen to urgently address rising community anger over government consultation on renewable projects and massive transmission lines integrating solar and wind farms into the electricity system.

In her submission to AEMO, which is overseeing a project plagued by delays and cost blowouts, Ms King said parts of her electorate would be significantly impacted if a Western Renewables Link transmission station was built by VNI West north of ­Ballarat.

“Throughout this process, I have been shocked and disappointed by the lack of respect that has been shown to local communities and the lack of consideration of their land uses, local government views and landscape,” Ms King, writing in her capacity as Ballarat MP, told AEMO.

“In my view, a significant amount of the anger felt by the community could have been avoided if their views and interests were considered from the very start of the project, rather than four years down the fact.”

AEMO has established TCV, a wholly owned subsidiary, to progress early works on Victoria’s centrepiece $3.3bn electricity transmission project, finalise the route and consult with landholders, community groups and traditional owners. It will not physically construct or own the high-capacity 500Kv double-circuit overhead Victoria-NSW transmission lines.

Mr Bowen, who is working to “improve” renewable energy project engagement with stakeholders, received a hostile reception on Tuesday when he ­arrived at a closed-door meeting in Nelson Bay to discuss the NSW Hunter Offshore Wind Zone with hand-picked community representatives.

Community leaders who ­attended the meeting in Labor MP Meryl Swanson’s battleground seat of Paterson, where the Liberals secured a 4.2 per cent swing at the 2022 federal election, claimed Mr Bowen rejected their request to reopen consultation.

The government’s rapid push to meet its 82 per cent renewables and 43 per cent emissions ­reduction targets by 2030 has sparked anxiety in coastal and regional communities earmarked for transmission line projects and offshore wind zones.

Confirmed and proposed projects in NSW, Victoria and South Australia have united seafood producers, fishermen, boaties, farmers, environmentalists, tourism operators, local governments and community groups who are demanding better consultation and independent analysis.

Major concerns raised by stakeholders about offshore wind turbines and transmission projects include negative impacts on endangered and at-risk wildlife, tourism and whale-watching, the seafood industry, sacred ­traditional Indigenous sites, visual amenity and farmland.

In her submission published by AEMO on May 27, Ms King welcomed an “increased focus … on social license” but warned VNI West proponents to “engage fully with the communities around ­Bulgana who will be impacted by this proposal and to mitigate any negative impacts it may have on their lives or livelihoods”.

“More broadly, I welcome the focus on cultural heritage, land use and the environmental impacts of the proposed route. The region north of Ballarat is not only home to the finest potato-growing country in Australia, but is a region of notable heritage and natural beauty,” she wrote.

“It has always been an inappropriate location for a development of this type as I, and many in the community, have been saying from the start. As Australia continues its transition to net zero, there will be increasing need for new projects just like this one in order to maintain a stable electricity grid.

“In rolling out these projects, it will be important to engage thoroughly and honestly with impacted communities all throughout the process – from project conception, to construction and beyond.”

Ms King’s intervention preceded a review ordered by Mr Bowen in July to “bolster reforms in community engagement around renewable energy infrastructure upgrades and new developments”.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bowen said Ms King “is a strong advocate for the energy transition, and for listening carefully to local communities about its opportunities and impacts – and the minister agrees”.

“Our traditional energy assets are ageing – with over 4GW of dispatchable power leaving the grid over the past decade and only 1GW to replace it because of chaos on climate and energy,” she said.

“Australia has needed much better consultation around energy infrastructure for years – so with the states we are making the overdue changes to electricity rules to ensure proponents of all energy projects must engage properly with communities – and landholders and communities have better guidance about their rights and entitlements.”

Regional Victorian councils, environmental groups and farmers have lodged concerns with AEMO about the route of VNI West’s overhead transmission lines. The project will connect the Western Renewables Link, north of Ballarat, with Project EnergyConnect at Dinawan.

Concerns about the VNI West and Western Renewables Link projects focus on vegetation loss, land clearing, threats to woodland bird species, impacts on cultural sites and economic damage to agricultural production and tourism.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Mr Bowen must explain the true cost and impacts of Labor’s renewables plan. “If Chris Bowen pretends that his policy is going to cost less than $1.2 trillion, he needs to provide the detail because the experts … are saying that the Labor plan will cost between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion – and Australians will pay for that through increased electricity bills. People are going to end up with 28,000km of new poles and wires, which is a considerable eyesore through many communities.

“People in metropolitan areas, or outer metropolitan areas like mine in my electorate … don’t want those wind turbines. So why should people in regional areas be forced to take them when they’re not reliable, and you need to firm them up?”

After the Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday confirmed that Australia had entered an El Nino phase, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government was taking the long-term climate change threat seriously. “Part of that is a shift in the energy mix to 82 per cent renewables by 2030,” Mr Albanese said. Mr Bowen this week said transmission projects like VNI West and Hume Link were “absolutely essential for the country, for our plans for emissions reduction, but also communities deserve proper engagement”.

Mr Bowen, who released departmental modelling this week claiming the Coalition would need to spend $387bn to replace coal-fired generation with nuclear small modular reactors, on Tuesday said it “never hurts to do a bit of engagement”.

“I understand people’s concerns. But I also understand the jobs that will be created,” he said. “I understand people in the Hunter want to see action on climate change. They want to see local jobs created as well. These are things to be balanced.”